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Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas) (3/10)

by Tony Medley

Concept         A

Story               B-

Script              D

Acting             C

Length            C

Pace               D

Music              D

Based on a true story (we all know what that means by now), this tells the tale of one group of soldiers in World War I who were on opposite sides (meaning the krauts on one side and the limeys and frogs on the other) laid down their arms on Christmas Eve, 1914 and celebrated Christmas Eve together.

It actually happened. The question is whether or not it happened the way writer/director Christian Carion pictures it here. Unlikely.

Marring the film is the lip syncing done by Diane Kruger, who plays Anna Sörenson, and Benno Fürmann, who plays her husband, tenor Nikolaus Sprink. Their mouths are synchronized to the words, but it is just so clear that they aren’t singing it destroys the ambience Carion is trying to create.

Of all wars, WWI was the one most run by cold-blooded imbeciles, especially the Allies. But this has been beautifully dealt with in “Paths of Glory” (1957). Apparently a cat was executed for treason in real life during WWI. This was too over the top for Carion and he omitted it from his film because he thought it would destroy its verisimilitude, even though it was true.

The worst part of this movie is that it is so slow. It takes a long time to set up. Then when they leave their trenches and get together, it is mildly inspirational, descending into a clumsy anti-war message at the end.

One thing I didn’t understand is that it is very cold on December 24, 1914 in Belgium, or wherever they were. So cold that corpses have been laying around between the trenches for more than a month and they are frozen solid. During the cease fire, when they are making nice with each other, someone suggests that during the truce they should bury all the corpses. Good idea, they agree. So everyone hops out and digs lots of graves. Here’s the problem. If it’s so cold that the corpses are frozen solid and haven’t decayed one iota in over a month, wouldn’t the ground be frozen too solid to dig graves?

February 16, 2006